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Books Reviewed in the CW Journal

 

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World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781571313652
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Milkweed Editions - September 8th, 2020

By Christine MacIntyre - Reviewed in issue #80 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments is a pleasant read from cover to cover. The lighthearted prose of celebrated poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil reads like a picturesque spring day—a soft breeze, sunlight warming the earth after a long winter, and scents of growth and new beginnings. 

Nezhukumatathil’s observations of some of the world’s astonishments, primarily through the lens of a younger version of herself, provide readers with little-known details of each curiosity. Her rendition of how these curiosity’s guided her and provided clarity to her life are interesting. Each chapter highlights a different creature, flower, or plant as she examines the beauty of all living things. Further, she derives meaning and value from each wonder she describes—animated but not to the point of delusional or impractical. By the book’s end, optimism bloomed as I found myself subconsciously observing my surroundings, questioning, What can this teach me in terms of my own life?

From the first chapter, Catalpa Tree, Nezhukumatathil utilizes her knack for analogy and metaphor to create a vivid picture in readers’ minds, placing the reader in the shadows of the catalpa trees of the south. Recollections from her childhood embody the many landscapes in which she lived, spanning the grounds of a Kansas mental institution where her Filipina mother was a doctor, the open plains of Arizona, and the startling cold climates of rural western New York and Ohio. As with any childhood experience, her life was not without awkward situations, drama, mishaps, tears, fears, and, of course, wonder. Yet, as her roots transplant from place to place, she absorbed her surroundings, finding beauty and kinship in some surprising places.

Nezhukumatathil contemplates her parents’ influence on her with the wise voice of someone with a firm grasp on the things in life that truly matter—someone who, as a “brown girl” surrounded by white ones, enjoyed “extravagances” such as the occasional Little Debbie brownie shared with her sister. Her mother’s confidence shaped and molded her, transforming the once shy, nervous sixth-grader, the girl who looked to the colossal catalpa (a steadfast fixture rooted in her life) to shield her and provide anonymity when she desired it most.

World of Wonders encompasses a harmonious blend of informative and inspirational prose. In just 165 pages, Nezhukumatathil captures the jovial nonchalance of childhood, seamlessly tying in the slights of becoming—of growing up. Her impressionable mind absorbed the world’s delights, even in the face of the more poignant aspects inherent in learning to cope in an often-intimidating world.

True to form throughout the book, Nezhukumatathil ‘s tone is earnest and light while savoring the fun, quirky facts of creatures, such as how narwhals see through sound or an axolotl’s wide smile. These facts are woven flawlessly into her childhood, often conjuring up a sense of nostalgia as readers reflect on their childhoods and the wonders they may have overlooked or taken for granted. Yet, at the same time, the book is a beacon of hope for the rest of us—it’s never too late to learn to appreciate the beauty surrounding us.

Through lyrical and warmly written details of tender, precious moments from her past, Nezhukumatathil paints a picture for readers entrenched with profound beauty and feeling to which many people can relate. One passage reads, “…through all the electric and fragrant greens, the spray and the shine of the wild bursts of fruit, the messy blood-red days and the stench and the stink too – this finally was a man who’d never flinch, never leave my side when things were messy, or if he was introduced to something new. This was a man who’d be happy when I bloomed.” Through her reflective use of words, she proficiently describes the power of feeling supported and loved as we evolve, journeying toward full bloom like the revered Corpse Flower.

Another chapter demonstrates how a bold shade of candy apple red lipstick is symbolic in her life. In junior high, she longed to feel a sense of belonging and fit in. She writes, “But even from that brief application, you fell in love with and slightly feared that slash of red, a cardinal out of the corner of your eye, lending definition to the outline of your mouth. A mouth that was used to speaking only when called upon.” 

Nezhukumatathil considers what it would be like to be a vampire squid as she bore the status of “new girl” again and again, especially in high school when the desire to chase away predators seems like a matter of life or death. The essays walk readers through the point in her life when she emerged from the shadows where that shy, unsure girl once dwelled in solitude. She reflects on wiggling out of a dark time in her life, moving on from trying to disappear to stepping into her own being, her own existence. “I was figuring out the delight and pop of music and the electricity on my tongue when I read out loud. I was at the surface again,” she writes.

In retrospect, Nezhukumatathil shows readers how and why she appreciates and is grateful for all her experiences, even those spent seemingly friendless and uncertain of herself. At one point in the text, she describes how her “shadow year” helped her become the kind of woman who would eventually understand and relate with her students and check in with and be present with her sons as they navigate their youth.

Always enamored by the outdoors, Nezhukumatathil says she felt most seen in her childhood “in forests or fields, by lake or ocean.” However, she does more than tell us; she shows us through text such as, “I learned how to be still from watching birds. If I wanted to see them, I had to mimic their stillness, to move slow in a world that wishes us brown girls to be fast.” Further, she shows us how her passion for the outdoors guided her into becoming and belonging in the world. “And just like the potoo, who is rewarded for her stillness… perhaps you could try a little tranquility, find a little tenderness in your quiet.”

Even in marriage, Nezhukumatathil derives meaning from creatures such as the bonnet macaque, who taught her to let “laughter be from a place of love.” With pragmatism, she considers how her husband and her learning to navigate the wild jungle of south India, surrounded by laughing monkeys and a language foreign to their tongues, is much like learning to navigate the early days of marriage. “…to keep laughing in love. To make my love laugh.”

Fumi Mini Nakamura’s illustrations highlight the wonders that Nezhukumatathil explores throughout the book, complementing the tone and voice appropriately. The gorgeous, whimsical renditions of the ribbon eel, Touch-Me-Nots, and whale sharks, to name a few, gives the book sustenance without distracting from the compilation of essays and the lessons they have to offer readers. 

Whether used as a noun or verb, a feeling or desire, wonder requires that we are curious enough to look past the distractions and fully appreciate the world’s gifts. It requires us to Learn how to survive no matter the environment, how to smile in the face of adversity, and shake off the strange and less-than-lovely aspects of life…to notice unpleasantries without letting them dictate or control who we are as a person. 

The essays enclosed in World of Wonders awaken readers’ senses, allowing them, too, to witness the admirable traits and valuable lessons derived from even the most unlikely of sources, like the comb jelly or dragon fruit, dancing frog or even a red-


The Rumi Prescription: How an Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Manic Life Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780525537786
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: TarcherPerigee - March 2nd, 2021

By Christine MacIntyre - Reviewed in issue #80 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

Melody Moezzi’s The Rumi Prescription: How an Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Manic Life is a candid narrative following Moezzi’s quest as an Iranian-American writer and activist. Her quest is relatable across time and space, as she learns to embrace and make the most of life. Her journey transpires with the guidance and influence of her father, Ahmad Moezzi, and ancient poet Rumi, whose advice “transcends language, culture, race, and religion.”

Layered with her personal experiences with bipolar disorder, discrimination, triumphs, and setbacks, she intersperses the literary work with wise and honest ruminations on religion, public health, politics, and culture. 

The 13th-century Persian poet’s writings are woven into each chapter of both the book and her life, as she utilizes her father’s deep understanding of these inspiring and deceptively simple poems that are simultaneously mystical and practical.

Moezzi describes Rumi’s poetry as “full of allegory, commentary, wordplay, and copious literary and Quranic allusions.” Yet, while the concepts flew over her head as a child, Moezzi embraced Rumi as an adult—approaching the task “with all the love, courage, humor, and humility it demanded.”

The beautifully written prose is deeply personal, as Moezzi seemingly reveals her authentic self to readers, offering a narrative for how she uses Rumi’s ancient words as a lifeline as she navigates life. The book embeds lessons and food for thought about family, anger, anxiety, distraction, isolation and is more than a memoir, spiritual journey, or collection of poetry. Through this captivating read, it is obvious how she gains wisdom and insight in the face of creative and spiritual roadblocks. 

Moezzi leaves no question to readers about the difficulty of her journey—navigating through tears, moments of intense anger, fear, and frustration. Additionally, she avoids sugarcoating the nitty-gritty truth to preserve readers’ levels of comfort. The sheer honesty and vulnerability embedded within the text are refreshing, if not comforting, for those of us who can relate on some level. And we all can, as her experiences encompass a wide array of positive and negative emotions, reactions, and outcomes.

Born in the United States after her Persian parents left Iran in the face of a “brewing so-called Iranian Revolution,” Moezzi grew up in a sizable, tightly knit Iranian-American community nestled in Dayton, Ohio, with her sister, Romana, and their parents. She learned to speak Farsi through weekly Persian lessons and summers in Tehran, albeit her fluency leaves something to be desired. Her father, “fluent in both modern Farsi and Rumi’s medieval variety,” routinely recited Rumi’s poetry, translating when necessary. 

“Intimately acquainted with a wide variety of pain,” Moezzi discusses her early adulthood struggles, including a rare pancreatic tumor, myriad medical hospitalizations, chronic pain, major surgery, and then-undiagnosed and untreated manic depression. Finally, a suicide attempt and inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations left her stripped to a bare minimum, with one goal left: survive. 

At 35 years old, when she writes The Rumi Prescription, Moezzi describes how she learned to reign herself in, focusing on processing her surroundings and herself within them. While her experiences still proved imperfect, as she combated stigma, discrimination, and her self-doubt from time to time, she describes turning to her parents, particularly her father, for clarity and guidance. 

She sets off on a pilgrimage, both spiritual and geographical, as she lands in San Diego, where her parents relocated. With Ahmad’s expertise, she is guided through a “lyrical world, full of powerful prescriptions for even the most seemingly modern human dilemmas” as she seeks out the “bandage that lets through the Light.”

Her father, “a physician by trade and a connoisseur of Sufi poetry by tradition,” serves as both friend and mentor, prescribing Rumi’ prescriptions’—or, as Moezzi refers to them, “sacred remedies, reminders of my roots, connections to my Source.”

Rumi intersperses his ruminations on fatherhood, feminism, and self-care, creating surprising and life-changing insights. Moezzi utilizes the poems consistently throughout the book, stating, “I faced all of the diagnoses and applied all of the prescriptions that follow.” Therefore, the book is organized “largely chronologically and in the order of every diagnosis (Dx) and prescription (Rx) that propelled [her] journey forward.”

Her writing is practical enough for the average person to understand and, perhaps even apply the concepts rooted within it to their own lives. Her overall tone throughout is thoughtful yet raw, as she articulates her journey toward self-discovery—her metamorphosis—as being “manic and mystical, scary and sublime.” Taking readers through specific scenarios, including those both disastrous and triumphant, she provides insights into the messiness of her journey. 

The book feels neither preachy nor like a typical self-help book; instead, it feels like reading the diary of a long-time friend. A friend who only wants to help others see that if she can overcome and rise above, so can you, albeit messily and sometimes painfully. 

Moezzi’s father is present through every one of her perceived failures, believing in her, cheering her on, and teaching her new perspectives based on Rumi’s poetic musings. His unwavering support demonstrates the power of having someone or something to believe in and who believes in you. She reflects, “For only looking back can I begin to grasp the powerful role my father’s treasured poems have always played in my life.”

Moezzi’s experiences include numerous public speaking panels, suffering the loss of a friend who succumbed to the potentially fatal symptoms of bipolar disorder and participating in several protests. In addition, her life held witness to countless acts of bigotry, bias, and racism.

Amid widespread hatred and chaos consuming much of the world, Moezzi learns to seek sustenance within herself. She gradually recognizes that by refreshing her perspective and becoming aware and mindful of everything outside of herself, she can minimize distraction and facilitate connection. Any reader can easily relate to her as she describes living in a world full of distraction that insists we look outward. The Rx: turn to the treasures within you, as each of us is already whole.

Moezzi’s powerful story attests to the notion that “recovery is possible, that medication works, that faith works, that love works, and that having an atypical brain can be as much an asset as a liability.” She mentions telling this to her students often, noting that being surrounded by people who “understand what it’s like to lose your mind and find your soul” is what allowed her to see her purpose and find her community.

She dutifully concludes that the remedies to our problems aren’t merely a prescription we can “…fill once and be cured,” as she states, “I need regular refills because I’m human….” Human nature compels us to insist upon constant reminders; therefore, a support system is vital, as shown through her story. 

Through her eloquent yet idiomatic text, she invites readers to quit sleepwalking through life—”to wake up and appreciate what’s right in front of [us], and to live in the present.” 

As Rumi states, “Why seek pilgrimage at some distant shore, when the Beloved is right next door?” Moezzi’s The Rumi Prescription makes the notion believable, filling readers with the hope that they, too, can find this sense of peace and self-acceptance, though perhaps not in the same way or through the same path.


Fermentation as Metaphor: From the Author of the Bestselling the Art of Fermentation Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781645020219
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Chelsea Green Publishing Company - October 15th, 2020

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #79 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

Would you have ever considered that lovely glass of wine, specifically the grapes that made it, may have a message for you? A message that goes beyond your health? Author Sandor Katz has. His most recent book, Fermentation as Metaphor, is a timely exploration of the subject of fermentation and how the fermentation process taking place with foods and beverages are analogous to what may be going on with us—as in society as a whole. 

Katz loves fermented foods and has a handful going at any given time. He ferments yogurt and jun (related to kombucha), sourdough starters and kimchi, as well as sake and several country wines. His obsession with fermentation led to his authoring several books and becoming a well-known fermentation revivalist who travels and teaches throughout the world.  Beyond just meaning undergoing fermentation, ferment, is defined as “to be in a state of agitation or intense activity.” Katz says this means anything in this excited or bubbly state is essentially fermenting. The versatility of this metaphor is impressive. 

A primary reason for eating or drinking something fermented is because “Fermentation of foods and beverages breaks down nutrients into simpler, generally more accessible forms. It can also break down toxic compounds into harmless substances.” Reflectively, we witness fermentation in our daily lives as outdated structures, ideas, and systems eventually break down. It’s not the end though, something new always comes in its place and the cycle repeats. 

One of the biggest metaphors Katz illustrates in the book is that of purity and contamination. He cites the “war on bacteria” as one example of a paradigm that is breaking down. The world we live in includes a variety of fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other organisms. Now more people are accepting fermented foods and beverages, and the bacteria they contain, are safe because fermentation is a self-protecting process. They are also recognizing fermentation contains a diversity of microbiology that helps to keep us healthy. Even Katz, who has lived with HIV for decades, grew to respect viruses as a necessary part of our existence. Similarly, the diversity of organisms large and small are what help us all co-exist together. 

The myth of purity permeates fermentation. Katz says nothing can ever be pure, despite all of our efforts. He offers that even “pure” gold is 99.9% pure. He expounds upon this notion and the irrational fears we may have around many types of things (or people) that may be considered impure. For example—young children exploring with their hands and mouths may cause adults to become fearful that the kids will ingest something that is harmful. When really, Katz says, this type of exposure is important to our immune systems. He says, “If purity means a state devoid of contamination, that is pure fantasy.” 

Another fantasy he speaks of is the desire to keep things inside a “perfect protective border.” In nature this is not the case. The seashore is a blend of earth and water, each blurring into the other. Fermented foods and beverages are designed to grow wild and uncontained with layers of different microbiology. Similarly, human beings, and the way we live, cannot exist in a nice and neat container. I can think of no better metaphor of this than the last two years. The longer we humans have been kept in a prescribed container, the more fermented we have become. 

As an offshoot of his love of fermented foods and beverages, Katz also enjoys photographing them so he can view and share with others what he sees as beautiful. With access to specialized microscopes, he has been able to capture detailed pictures of anything from radish kraut to moldy cornbread. By colorizing them, they become brilliant, textured works of art. The book is filled with them. 

I was not familiar with this subject before reading this book and I would say you don’t have to be interested in eating or drinking fermented foods to appreciate Fermentation as Metaphor. Katz effortlessly draws many parallels between the micro and the macro, between what we eat and who we are. Fermentation can be likened to acceptance and freedom. Miso is a mascot to the maverick. He says fermentation is not a trend but a part of life. Mutation is inevitable. Feeling bubbly or seeing bubbles both signal transformation—and that means anything is possible.


The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780310360957
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Zondervan - April 13th, 2021

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #79 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

It’s 2022, a brand-new year! You think: This is it. This is the year I’m going to decorate my house beautifully. I’m going to complete that home project I’ve had on my mind. I’m going to make everything exactly how I’ve been envisioning it. The season is in your favor after all. It’s the dead of winter so you’ve got time to work on the inside. Yet, in the back of your mind there’s that other thought: Can I really do it? Will I? Few things are more loaded with potential or expectations than a new year. 

According to Myquellin Smith, Author of The Nesting Place, It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful. You don’t have to put in as much sweat, tears, or dollars, as you may think to make your home beautiful, and you certainly don’t have to wait until the calendar changes. Smith is a self-taught home decorating expert and coach with an Instagram following and a website featuring an online community, classes, and events. The Nesting Place is a guide for anybody who’s ever felt their desires were out of proportion to their budget, anyone who is too scared of making an imperfect purchase, or too afraid to begin. It’s for anyone who’s ever thought their home wasn’t good enough because it didn’t look like pictures in magazines, books, or on decorating sites.

Beginning with the first house she and her husband lived in as a newly married couple, Myquillyn has lived in a total of thirteen homes. Gradually the homes grew to contain the additions of three children and a dog. It was her attempts to create beauty in each dwelling that helped her learn how to do it. She’s done it all and made plenty of mistakes—from painting kitchen countertops in a rental property to shocking herself while rewiring a lamp. Along the way she developed impressive creative skills and reframed what constitutes a beautiful home. Her techniques are meant to be applied to a variety of homes because she’s lived in all kinds of spaces—apartments, condos, houses and even a garage. A few of these homes were purchased but many were rentals.  She is a strong advocate for renting and currently lives in a rented house. Even in the least ideal home, Smith always found a way to make her love the space more.  

The book addresses all the places we tend to get hung-up when it comes to our homes.  Fear may be stopping you from a big project—but can also affect the smaller ones—such as moving a chair or making the dreaded nail hole. Then, there are the other people whose opinions lead you to feel guilty about your idea to paint the table that’s sitting in your garage...such as your dad, who says painting over good wood is a sin. And, of course, we all have excuses, whether it’s not enough money or becoming deer-in-the-headlamps frozen because we can’t make a decision. Making a small change can seem risky, but it could always lead to something better. There is no one right way to do something. 

There are some guidelines (not rules!) as to how to begin. One technique is to “quiet a room” which involves removing anything you can carry that isn’t a large or fixed item. Once you are only looking at a sofa, window treatments and lamps, for example, you can see your space better and it may reveal a hidden gem you had forgotten about. There are plenty of money saving ideas, too, such as using items found in nature or shopping your home—pretend you are in a store where everything is free, what (that you already have) would you choose? 

According to Smith, if you are seeking perfection, in your home (or elsewhere), you have two choices. You can either work hard to achieve it, or give up! She has chosen the latter and generously shares her “flaws.” Several photos of her home, in the book, have not been tidied up. There’s a coffee table covered in books and a laptop hidden among them. She shares a picture that was taken for Ladies Home Journal of her office, appearing neat and staged, next to a picture of the same office after the photo shoot was completed. The after photo has drawers open, papers all over the desk and looks like someone actually works in that space. Your lived-in home on display for everyone to see is still beautiful. She says, “I don’t share it because it’s perfect: I share it because I’m finally okay that it’s not.” She includes an Imperfectionist Manifesto at the end of the book. 

Finally, here’s an enjoyable and realistic book for all the Pinterest-weary among us. One that gives you permission to accept the imperfections of your living space. Instead of being restricting and unachievable, the information in The Nesting Place, is forgiving and completely within reach. There is no need to post of a photo of your “doesn’t-quite-fit” homemade slipcover along with a shamefully sarcastic “Nailed it!” There’s nothing to be disappointed about. Making your home the way you want it someday can be right now if you are open to the possibility.


The Modern Guide to Crystal Healing: Includes over 400 crystals to transform your life Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781800650091
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: CICO Books - February 16th, 2021

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #78 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

Phillip Permutt was recommended as an excellent resource for knowledge about crystals. When his new book, The Modern Guide to Crystal Healing came out, I thought it was a great opportunity to take a look. Permutt lives in the United Kingdom and began practicing crystal healing after a severe illness many years ago. He is now considered an expert in the field.  

The nicely sized book is packed with an amazing amount of information organized in a simple fashion with sharp photographs for identification. The introduction contains a history of how crystals have been used throughout different civilizations. Crystals have been described in ancient texts and found in early graves. Permutt says that crystals work first with the energy system of the body which then affects the physical body, and that’s how they can help with healing. Permutt discusses several ways to work with crystals to benefit from them, including making an elixir. These can be taken as a drink or applied to the body. For example, amber elixir “can act as an antiseptic for cuts and grazes.” 

There is a section on preparing for crystal work which includes how to choose a crystal that’s right for you. You may also choose one for someone else. Permutt tells the story of how he chose the yellow crystal citrine for a customer, having a feeling it was related to his digestion. The man insisted there was nothing wrong but took the crystal. Several days later he called to say at a dinner the previous night everyone he was with had gotten food poisoning. He was the only one who didn’t and had been carrying his citrine. 

The Crystal Finder chapter has descriptions and clear photos for over 400 different crystals. Quartz and Amethyst are listed first because they are “two of the most powerful healing crystals.” For myself, I’m often drawn to crystals based on their color as are many people. The rest of the crystals are organized in rainbow order with colored bands at the top of each page. If you know you tend to be attracted to green stones, it’s easy to flip to that section. 

For each crystal, he lists where it is sourced, astrological associations, and the chakra alignment followed by healing qualities. For example: the crystal aquamarine can be found in several countries including Afghanistan, Brazil, and the USA. It is associated with Aries, Gemini, and Pisces and aligns with the throat chakra. It is listed as protecting travelers, giving courage, and being helpful when studying or communicating. Aquamarine also “makes things happen.” Physically it is healthy for the kidneys, lymph, blood, teeth, and eyes. Emotionally it has a calming energy and helps if you’re feeling judgmental. What if you are repelled by certain colors or stones? He talks about the reasons behind that, too. 

Another way to find a crystal for you is based on the healing properties. The last chapter is all about crystal remedies. There is a section for crystals for physical remedies, another for emotional remedies, as well as sections for crystals for spiritual enhancement or lifestyle enhancement. I had been suffering from a frozen shoulder and wondered if there was anything listed to help me. There were several listings under both muscle and bone. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to actually see a separate listing for frozen shoulder! It said to “Hold azurite/malachite or liddicoatite in the hand of the affected shoulder.” I had some malachite and I tried holding it as suggested, for 30 minutes and I did notice a bit of pain relief. It was enough to inspire me to try it again. There are also several all-purpose crystals that are useful if you’re not sure where to begin.  

Permutt says based on his experience and that of others, “a full-course of crystal healing leads to an improvement in well-being.” I own several books on crystals, but this one has inspired me to really investigate how to use them more in my daily life for all kinds of reasons. The tell-tale sign of a good resource book is how easily you can find what you are looking for, and this book is very well put together. I can already tell this is going to be a book I reach for often!


Sensitive Is the New Strong: The Power of Empaths in an Increasingly Harsh World Cover Image
$27.00
This book is currently not available to order, please check back
ISBN: 9781501196676
Published: Atria/Enliven Books - March 16th, 2021

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #78 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

Anita Moorjani’s new book Sensitive is the New Strong: The Power of Empaths in an Increasingly Harsh World, is a slightly different spin on the subject of being highly sensitive or empathic. She knows the subject matter first-hand and the pain and suffering it can cause when a person isn’t aware of, or doesn’t know how to, deal with it. You see, in 2008, hours from dying from the end stages of cancer, she had a near death experience (NDE) and completely recovered. The late author Wayne Dyer discovered her story and was instrumental in her telling it through her earlier bestselling book Dying to be Me. Her new book’s title Sensitive is the New Strong grew out of her experience with the hurt she experienced from negative and critical people online. She began asking questions—Did others feel this way? Is this why there are so few sensitive people in leadership roles?

In the first part of the book The World of an Empath, she discusses her NDE and years later, a transformational encounter with a shaman in Costa Rica. She learned being an empath was the definitive reason for why she had been so challenged throughout her life. This new information gave her the language to understand herself and the people that she attracted to her work. Empaths are different than others and they often feel like there is something wrong with them, when in actuality, they are unaware of their gift and how to deal with it. Moorjani sums it up this way, “We’re six-sensory beings who’ve been conditioned to believe that we’re five-sensory beings in a world created by people who believe that they’re five-sensory beings.” How to know if this is you? There is a quiz to determine your empathic score. Are you somewhat sensitive or a full-blown mystic? I shared the quiz with a few friends and family and found not everyone can relate to being an empath. 

In the second section, Your Relationship with Yourself, Moorjani goes deeper into how to function more ideally as an empath. She covers the energy zapping that occurs from using the internet. There’s an important chapter called Turning Up the Dial on your Ego. To help with stronger boundaries empaths need to align their ego with naturally high level of conscious awareness. She tells the story of her friend who became terminally ill (before she herself did). Moorjani felt guilty if she wasn’t helping her friend or her friend’s children and she became weak from her body’s natural inclination to feel what her friend was feeling. Moorjani’s underdeveloped ego led to her denial of her own needs. Even as Moorjani’s own illness began, she still cared more about how everyone around her was feeling than herself. She shares the wisdom that illness, whether small or big is often the body pushing back, and can be an alarm telling you, it’s time to value yourself as an individual, to pay attention to your own needs, before it’s too late. 

In Part 3: Your Relationship with The World, Moorjani covers a big trigger for empaths—creating financial abundance. On the one hand empaths are naturally gifted at manifesting. However, their desire to people-please and give out of a desire to serve can lead to them to devalue themselves, their talents, and their work. Moorjani says following her NDE she would do healing work and speak to others about her experience for free. It took a lot of her time, but she loved doing it. Eventually she let go of her fear of what others would say due to the common belief that “money isn’t spiritual.” Doing so changed her whole world and she became the well-known author and speaker she is today. 

This book is full of other helpful teachings for empaths such as learning to say “no” and dealing with the side of guilt that comes afterward. She herself ended up saying “no,” to an arranged marriage. She talks about the role of gender as an added layer to being an empath. In her culture she was groomed from an early age to be submissive and obedient in order to be a good wife to her husband and the family she would marry into. Moorjani was also bullied growing up and has a really unique way to approach confrontation and deal with adversaries. At the end of each chapter is a relevant meditation. There is one for tuning in, for abundance, and for being yourself unapologetically, to name a few. 

Years ago, I saw Moorjani tell her incredible story in person. She speaks with confidence and authority because she has real experience. Maybe like Moorjani, you (or someone you know) feel things more deeply than most—you may feel drained from daily life more often than not. It took clinical death for Moorjani to honor and love herself, own her gifts, and connect to cosmic consciousness. To be clear, she is saying that her inability to be herself is what lead to her nearly dying! There is so much wisdom here from her own journey both before and after her NDE, including how to increase your life force so that you can, as she was instructed by her father, “live your life fearlessly.”


Intimate Conversations with the Divine: Prayer, Guidance, and Grace Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781401922894
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Hay House Inc. - November 9th, 2021

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #77 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

Author, and spiritual teacher, Caroline Myss was an original and powerful voice in the self-help genre back in the 1990’s, beginning with books such as Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing. Her gift of medical intuition was a new concept. Her newest release is called Intimate Conversations with the Divine: Prayer Guidance and Grace. The pre-press preface was written at the onset of the shift of 2020 and addresses the global Covid-19 pandemic. She’s quick to point out that, “We have been living in a psychic pandemic of fear for many years,” and this prayer book seeks to address that fear.  

Myss is the product of a Catholic upbringing which gave her a foundation for connecting to the divine in a unique way, bridging spirituality with healing. This is the theme in all her books. Myss also teaches her work. Several years ago, at the end of her classes, Myss would share her prayers with her students. Much to her dismay, they began to request copies.  Out of the many requests for copies grew the birth of this book. Sharing her own personal spiritual practice with the world was not something she ever thought she would do, but realized it was something she had to do.  

According to Myss, people have been praying in one form or another for centuries, but it is a language that has become absent in our daily lives. Prayer books are not new, but Myss’ own prayers may be. At first glance, I expected to see pages full of simple stanzas surrounded by white space. Instead, they are actually short chapters, 100 in total, each devoted to a relatable theme. I randomly opened to a page to see what came up (something she suggests doing). It was Prayer 39 called Healing Night Flights, a prayer for repairing one’s “depleted soul. . . weary body and . . . burdened heart,” while asleep. As we follow her conversation, she talks about the work we have to do ourselves and writes, “There is no such thing as a small act of darkness just as there is no such thing as a small act of love.” There you have it. This is not a light and airy prayer book. 

The prayers read more like essays, or soliloquies on different topics, much like reading a sermon, only very intimate, deep, and relatable. Each two-to-four-page chapter is divided into Prayer, Guidance, and Grace, and ends with an italicized message as in chapter 39 above, “Lord grant me the grace to awaken—truly awaken—and the courage to embrace that mystical experience.” This is the part that is what you might expect a traditional prayer book to look and sound like. Other chapters have titles such as: Confronting my Frightened Inner Self, Sharing Blessings, and The Gift of Aging. What is labeled Prayer is essentially her conversation to the Divine about a certain subject. In the Prayer section of the chapter There but for the Grace of God Go I, she discusses her encounter with a homeless man who joins her on a park bench. He asks her for an iced tea, she agrees and offers to get him a sandwich as well. She becomes uncomfortable when he asks her to eat with him, not wanting to be alone. She obliges him and shares her—not often seen—vulnerability in this experience. She has another meeting with another woman she feels has the signature of a saint and muses as to how the Divine is choosing them these days.  

The sections on Guidance involve Myss going deeper into the subject matter of the related Prayer. Here she asks questions and may share a relevant story. In the chapter called Only You Could Change the World so Fast, she says the current virus is the agent of bringing the world to a stop but not the mystical agent—the agent behind the scenes, so to speak. She says “We haven’t really grasped that ‘creating our own reality’ is a mystical truth, not a behavioral one.” The Guidance here is to understand the truth that we have the power to create through every choice we make.

In the Grace portion of a chapter on faith she says faith and trust go hand in hand and they are the foundations of self-esteem. In typical fashion, she does not mince words. “If you cannot Trust yourself, you can never—ever—Trust another person.” The thing you have to appreciate about Myss is that she’s going to take you deeper than you might be comfortable with so you’ll do your own inner work. She’s a strict teacher and regularly raps the spiritual ruler on the reader’s knuckles. 

Myss makes a tight case for prayer in our lives and her book provides us with the medicine. She points out that we are in a historical crisis of sorts. Where the “majority do not know what they believe in.”  Humanity is vulnerable. Not knowing where we stand, we might believe the loudest, strongest voice around even if it’s negative, even in the context of religion.

Prayer or words, can help or heal and she defines the true meaning of prayer as “a request for help in how to see.” To find the words and the hope to guide you in this life. In this most personal work of hers yet, Myss gives us an opportunity to join her in asking for help through prayer.


The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention (A 6-Week Artist's Way Program) Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781250768582
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Essentials - January 12th, 2021

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #77 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

Switching gears, readers and students of Julia Cameron’s 1992 original creativity course, The Artist’s Way, will undoubtedly have their ears perk up upon hearing about her new book, a six-week Artists Way Program titled The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention. Creativity is the foundation of Cameron’s teachings and her new book builds on this with the concept of listening. She seeks to answer the question—how does listening feature into our lives as creatives?  

At this point in her career Cameron is a seasoned teacher. Her long-time students and readers are seasoned as well. The Listening Path refines the creative process even more. The introduction explains the three main tools of The Artist’s Way:  Morning Pages, The Artist’s Date, and The Daily Walk. One need not have read any of her prior books to understand these. 

Morning Pages are the work portion, an opportunity for you to be heard, by you! These are three completely imperfect handwritten pages of whatever is in your head written each morning upon waking. My experience is when morning pages are done consistently, they make everything a little easier. The Artist Date brings in the fun factor. Often resisted, giving yourself this special time to focus on your inner artist, you can’t help but listen. A period of strong writing followed one student’s artist date to a pet store where she got to pet the baby rabbits.  Lastly the Daily Walk “brings us into the present moment.” We can’t help but look and listen to our environment as we move through it. These three pieces are the foundation of her Artists Way programs. 

The first three weeks of The Listening Path are all about listening to what is in your immediate vicinity: the sounds in your environment, other people, and your higher self. Cameron writes at length about part of her day with respect to the entirety of sounds around her: The loud noise of a hail storm and the effects it has on her dog. She says by tuning out sounds we do ourselves a disservice. For example, tuning in to the alarm clock noise you despise may inspire you to take the action of getting one you like better. Liking your alarm clock sound will have the added effect of making you happier, and you will be more likely to tune in further. Listening to pleasant sounds makes us more pleasant. “Happiness is a primary characteristic of the Listening Path,” says Cameron.

When it comes to listening to others Cameron points out there can be the tendency to interrupt, have your response ready ahead of time, or listen without saying anything. She interviews fellow artist friends and shares with us how listening factors into their own creative processes. This is a non-intimidating workbook with simple “Try this…” invitations for our ears peppered throughout. She took what she heard from her actor and writer friend and turned it into one of those suggestions. Try this: Plan to meet a friend for a chat with the intention of listening carefully to learn. Afterward, consider what you learned and discovered. It’s a great opportunity to practice being curious. 

Working with the previous Artists Way tools can make us feel more ready to listen to our higher self. Cameron shares how writing to her “inner elder,” calmed her anxiety about buying a home for the first time in many years. She addressed the naysayers: the inner critic and others who claim this is just our imagination. There are a series of questions she asks herself when faced with any troubling situation, such as: “What do I need to accept?” Tuning into our intuition provides comforting guidance.  

The following weeks invite us to consider something we may have never in our lives actively listened to—voices beyond our immediate environment such as listening to those beyond the veil like deceased loved ones or historical figures, and lastly, listening to silence. Here Cameron shares that she communicates regularly with close friends that have passed on. I was surprised how simple and easy she made it sound. “Can I hear from Jane?” she asks and immediately, Jane responds. Having her friends’ supportive messages are encouraging. 

Similarly, Cameron listens to voices of public figures that are no longer living. She says the intention is key here. Who do we admire? Cameron admires and writes to Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. He offers appreciation and reassurance of her work. Cameron has previously shared that the late famous duo—Rogers and Hammerstein, helped her write musicals. Writing music was something new that her Morning Pages suggested she try. She has now completed three musicals and two collections of children’s songs. Cameron points out that to communicate with our heroes builds connections that strengthen ourselves. Why not make an attempt to listen to someone you find wise, who has all the time in the world to speak to you?

The final chapter on listening to silence may be challenging to many. “We quake in its unexpected emptiness.” So many of us live with constant background noise, be it TV, radio, or even going shopping with earbuds in. Cameron encourages her silence avoiding friend to try sitting in silence for five minutes. He calls her after the experiment and reports that although it was different, he remembered something important and had some new ideas for his week. Cameron insists the silence isn’t silent at all, it is filled with a benevolent presence. For those that seek silence it can also be difficult to find it, especially in the city. She suggests finding the quietest environment you can. It could be a church or a library (when open), and tuning into the silence to discover what you hear within it. After time spent in silence, our senses are undeniably sharper and more alert. As I was enjoying a bit of silence at a park recently, I picked up a safe but unpleasant burning smell from a distance which I might not have noticed otherwise. 

Once I began this book, I immediately found myself paying closer attention to my environment and others. I noticed listening takes patience and time, but that’s also what it gives you. On the cover of the book is a single Conch shell, a perfect illustration of a seemingly silent object found in nature—an ideal image to capture the essence of The Listening Path.  

As it turns out Caroline and Julia do have more to tell us, more to teach us. These two books, unique on their own, actually fit together nicely as a pair. Each book highlights an aspect of conversation, one is about communicating, the other listening. The invitation to participate in either requires very little on our part and by all accounts seems more than worth it.


The Five-Element Solution: Discover the Spiritual Side of Chinese Medicine to Release Stress, Clear Anxiety, and Reclaim Your Life Cover Image
$17.99
This book is currently not available to order, please check back
ISBN: 9781401958558
Published: Hay House Inc. - June 16th, 2020

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #76 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

Author and teacher, Jean Haner, has carved out a unique niche for herself as an expert on Chinese spiritual methods, including: the art of Chinese face reading, the Nine-Star-Ki (a form of numerology), and Space Clearing. Her latest book, titled The Five Element Solution: Discover The Spiritual Side of Chinese Medicine to Release Stress, Clear Anxiety, and Reclaim Your Life was inspired by her clients who wanted more support after their sessions with her. 

In the past, Chinese scientists looked at nature and realized that all life moves in a circle. They divided the circle into five stages and named them after the five elements present in Chinese medicine and culture. The cycle begins with water, which flows into wood, then fire, followed by earth, and finally metal. Wood and earth may sound like the same thing, but they are distinctly different elements in this system. 

The book is divided into four parts, beginning with a survey to determine where you are within the five elements. Which are you strongest in? Which are weaker? I had a fun time going through the survey and felt like I saw myself in all the elements, although some seemed to stand out a little more, which was made clearer as I read further. Haner says that everyone carries each of the five elements within. The book then progresses through problem-solving and a list of health issues for each element, followed by simple remedies or full prescriptions for all five elements. All of the suggestions are things a person can easily do and do not require anything special. There is a natural flow cycle as well as a control cycle. For example, water controls fire, so one way to help with excess water is to stimulate fire. 

The essence of the water element is slow, non-linear, and without agenda. Lower back pain and adrenal issues are symptoms of water imbalance. If water being out of balance is a consistent problem for you, wearing black can help, and so can drinking more water! There are wardrobe and food prescriptions for all the elements. Wood follows water in the cycle and is the vital energy of spring. Unlike water, wood is linear, has a plan (much like a tree), and is necessary to help us achieve our goals. If you are a wood element type, you may be prone to depression. Each element has a way to assist with the imbalance of every other element, and in this way they all work together. For example, a woman in an unhealthy relationship was unable to think clearly. Her “wood was exhausted, and so her ability to think, and plan, and to have confidence so she could begin anew was seriously depleted.” Saturating her life with the water element eventually gave her the courage to take steps for herself. 

Fire comes after wood and aligns with midlife and summertime. In Chinese medicine, it represents the heart, and it also falls in the “heart” (center) of the Five-Element cycle. Fire is connected to the place within us that feels joy, makes others feel loved, or has an intuitive sense about a person, so we know if we can trust them with our heart. The most common symptom of fire imbalance in our culture is “lack of joy.” This is due to being stuck in situations that are unfulfilling instead of heartfelt. If you are a fire element type, you may be an empath and easily react to others’ emotions. Rejection and heartbreak are also more painful for those with a strong fire element. One prescription to help if your fire is often out of balance is to add play and fun into your life.  

Lastly are the elements of earth and metal, which align with the energies of Mother and Father, respectively. Like a mother, the earth element in balance would be one that is providing enough nurturing and comfort to themselves and others, but not so much that they are depleted. Weak boundaries are a common imbalance for this element. To help rebalance earth, one might include exercising with a friend instead of alone, as well as eating breakfast between 7-9 a.m. All the elements align with a different time of day. Metal element relates to gold and silver but also rocks and crystals, all of which are hard and inflexible. Metal has a refined quality and helps us be our best selves and focus on what is important, much like a father. Metal imbalances can include anxiety and financial worries. One man who was house-hunting agonized “over the prospect of buying the house and then having it lose value. Because he spent so much time on this hyper-analysis, other buyers took house after house before he could decide.” Healing metal imbalance allows you to recognize what is essential, and let go of what is not, as well as be able to say something is “good enough!” 

The latter part of the book contains a five-week program which incorporates each element into your life. It’s a way of rebooting your system if you are stuck or you’re not sure which element you should focus on. This way you don’t need to figure it all out, just follow the plan and trust. The weeks are to be completed in cyclical order. There are dos, such as when in the water week: Do slow-flow exercise. There are also don’ts, such as in week five to encourage metal: Avoid crowded and noisy spaces. 

The Chinese elemental cycle can be seen in the natural cycle of our day—having fun (fire) follows work (wood)— the life cycle—beginning with water—or throughout the decades with the free-spirited 60s following a time of rigid structure. “The five elements are the choreography we, and all of nature, are dancing to,” says Haner. Another way to view the cycle is with the words Be-Do-Love-Eat-Praise. Each of these naturally moves into the next one, and if we go with the flow of these elements, life has a natural balance and rhythm to it.


Being at Your Best When Your Kids Are at Their Worst: Practical Compassion in Parenting Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781611808667
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Shambhala - September 29th, 2020

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #76 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

Have you ever felt the “red mist” (of frustration) rise in you regarding something one of your children said or did? Did it soon follow with saying or doing something you later regretted? Author Kim John Payne understands this experience from the perspective of a parent, but also as a child that witnessed such behavior. 

Growing up, Payne’s mother suffered from health issues, and he was the victim of many an angry outburst from her. Sometimes she hit him with a belt, which was deeply hurtful, but not uncommon in the culture. Once he became a parent himself, he was surprised how easily he became frustrated and how quickly it escalated into anger. Reflecting back on his own upbringing he sought answers. 

Payne is a bestselling author with a background in school and family counseling and consulting. He is the founding director of the Simplicity Parenting Institute and the Center for Social Sustainability. Being at Your BEST When Your Kids Are at Their Worst: Practical Compassion in Parenting is Payne’s guidebook on how to be a parent with less regrets and a better connection with your kids. The book is an easy read structured into three parts: The Problem, The Key, and the Transformation. 

There are many reasons why parents struggle to not “lose it” with their kids. Some have a natural tendency, and some are the opposite—avoiding conflict completely. Looking at how your parents behaved toward you and your siblings is a natural place to begin. Payne addresses patterns and derailments that contribute to parenting challenges. One interesting piece was a chronicle of parenting behaviors through the decades dating back to the 1930s. Ninety years ago, “discipline wasn’t really an issue. Immediate survival and ‘just getting through’ were much more pressing.” Actual parenting “styles” didn’t come about until the quality of life improved and work was less a family affair. He discusses the things that push our buttons, including the resentment that builds when, as parents, we do so much without so much as a “thank you,” and how you can change that. He covers things that challenge us: screens, activities, and keeping up with peers. 

The core teaching of the book is the Compassionate Response Practice. The Practice is a type of guided visualization. It was born out of Payne’s experience using visualization as a young elite athlete and is structured in two phases. The first is a four-step process of extreme self-awareness viewed from two states of being. The first is what Kim refers to as Flow, when you are feeling strong and centered. The second state is when we operate out of what he calls Fever, when tensions are at their highest. Payne’s work often draws on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, and this fourfold concept is not new. 

The second phase of the Practice is where the magic happens, and it involves four visual stages : Radiate, Integrate, Unify, and Closing. This phase ultimately integrates the flow and the fever together. He uses the metaphor of a sick child when wondering how to handle your own unwanted emotions—hold them close, just like you would your child. I admit I was a bit skeptical when I tested the Practice out for myself, but I was surprised at the simplicity and effectiveness of it, and that it didn’t feel like a chore. It would seem that Payne has developed something unique and helpful, and if I did make it a regular practice, then it could definitely improve my own parenting and other relationships. 

Once you understand the two phases of the Compassionate Response Practice for yourself, there is a really wonderful chapter devoted to using the Practice for a child in need. The child could be your own, who may be having a hard time, or any child you know. This seems like an amazing tool that would have an exponential impact. Payne notes that some faculties and care teams use this form of The Compassionate Response Practice weekly: “Each person quietly chooses a student or client he or she will carry  (placing that person in the visualization). The group need not choose the same child… By doing this, many children are held in this very special way each week.” This is similar to praying for someone, only more purposeful.  

Lastly, the book reveals the gifts that come once you integrate the Compassionate Response Practice. Payne says this is one way he has found to be less afraid of messing up as a parent. Remember that you are the role model. “If your children are going to be at their best, they need to be okay with taking appropriate risks and accepting failure as a possibility.” At the same time, when a parent is angry, this is the point at which the child is vulnerable, and they are watching to see what the parent does next. If the parent can regulate their own nervous system, the child will naturally do the same. 

The book is filled with amazing stories of parents struggling and succeeding. As a counselor, Payne saw one father, a perpetrator of domestic abuse, experience a big shift one day when his daughter refused to get in the car. “I knew, and she knew, that we were headed into really dangerous territory. And then it happened. It’s hard to describe how good it felt, but I was able to speak to my child knowing that it was me she was hearing and not something from my messed-up past.” All it really takes to learn the Compassionate Response Practice is giving yourself some time and some space away from your family. Although the focus is on children, this technique can also be applied to many other relationships. 

A few years ago, I was fortunate to see Kim John Payne speak to a group of parents and educators. He was funny and engaging. He seems to have a gift for filtering all the advice parents have been given and funneling it down to a simple and lighthearted approach to problem-solving with kids, no matter their age.


Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781611808681
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Shambhala - October 13th, 2020

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #75 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

Whether you are new to Pema Chodron’s work, or you are already a fan, Welcoming The Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World, her first work in over seven years, is incredibly timely and sounds like a kind of mantra for 2020, or perhaps the entire decade. It seems either on a global scale, or a smaller more personal one, each and every one of us has something on our doorstep we would rather not let inside. Yet, allowing what we don’t desire to enter is precisely what we must do. As Chodron points out, it isn’t going anywhere. 

Chodron is a Buddhist nun and as much a student as a teacher. She shares her wisdom for handling difficult circumstances that she has learned from her many years immersed in the Buddhist practices—from other wonderful teachers, students, friends, and her own family. She has a lively story to go with every technique for embracing what is uncomfortable. 

Chodron says those of us who are drawn to this book are most likely motivated by Bodhichitta: The Awakened Heart. That is, we wish to embody the teachings in this book for our own well-being but also to help others. Bodhichitta begins by becoming free of what’s in the way of helping others and requires commitment.

Having a broken heart, as it turns out, is the ideal place to start—contrary to Western culture, which makes it seem as though we must have it all together in order to handle all that comes. According to Chodron, it is the cracks in our emotional center that help us grow stronger in our ability to manage more of what life throws at us. Much of it involves acceptance (which is not the same as liking!) and adapting to what is, using tools and practices, versus fixing and altering. 

Chodron addresses what, to her, is the most challenging unwelcome aspect—the polarization we have seen in our current world. She says our concepts and fixations are what bring about “us and them” division and prevent us from fully being there for others. She relates a time of being stuck on labeling her own mother as a hypochondriac. Her mother’s friend had a completely different view of her, which ended up changing Chodron’s mind. Freeing ourselves from labels is one path to Bodhichitta. 

The term “Basic Goodness” is an anchor throughout the book. One of the most touching stories is from a prisoner friend who has learned to see the basic goodness in his fellow prisoners, and by sharing his observation, we see it, too. It’s not always easy, but by trusting in the basic goodness in humanity, and in ourselves, we make society stronger and more resilient. 

There is a section devoted to the unwelcome shock that comes when your entire world changes in an instant, as in a sudden event or revelation. When your bubble bursts, connecting to the feelings of meaninglessness that follows gives us wisdom. We also become familiar with emptiness, which she says, is an “experience to cultivate rather than avoid.” She also gives a simple and fascinating exercise she has cultivated to help lessen the fear of death. 

When the going gets tough, we may all take refuge in things like Netflix or food, which, Chodron says, is perfectly fine sometimes. It’s cultivating the ability to go outside that comfort zone into the place of risk, which builds our resilience. She says, “As you build up your Bodhichitta muscles, your attitude about adversity changes,” and transformation slowly occurs.  

Chodron’s short chapters are easy to read, well crafted, and so loaded with insight they are worthy of at least a second read. Phrases like, “How we feel about ourselves will determine the future of the world,” are deep. The core message of the book is “waking up for others—it is we who have to change.” But, “in order to wake up we have to stop struggling with reality.”  Welcoming The Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World is the equivalent of a personal flotation device in our lives when maybe you are struggling to keep swimming, feel completely underwater, or need to jump ship. Situations in our lives might not be desirable, but tools for coping are available. 

Catherine Carlson grew up in Ann Arbor and returned in 2014 to raise her family after many years living on both coasts. Her professional interests include aurasoma, astrology, and writing.


The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780062870711
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperOne - September 10th, 2019

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #75 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

Trauma sounds like a word that applies to someone that has been wounded by a war or an epic tragedy, but it applies to so many more situations. Even someone that has experienced rejection or has lost a loved one can suffer from trauma. Two new releases address trauma, its effects, and tools for recovery. The first is titled The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma by James S. Gordon, MD, and the second is Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma by Elizabeth A. Stanley, PhD. Each text approaches trauma in a unique way and demonstrates a successful program that the author has developed. Coincidentally, both authors have degrees from Harvard and teach at Georgetown University, though neither refers to the other’s work in their respective books. 

The Transformation is a book born out of Dr. Gordon’s well-known and widely used program for healing psychological trauma as the founder and executive director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine. His work (which took root early in his career) as a psychologist and researcher at the National Institute of Health, has expanded to include people, and facilitators, all over the world. In his words, “Trauma comes, sooner or later, to all of us.”  The program Gordon has developed is found in his book along with many real-world examples of transformation and healing. His program includes a series of internal processes. There is a circular process of relaxation, awareness, and expression that encompasses types of breathing, meditation, drawing, and movement. And there are visualization techniques for you to access an imaginary safe place and contact a wise guide, even during times of great stress.  

Gordon gives a 5-stage process to tame triggers—those moments that  “shift our fight-or-flight response into high gear.”  He shares a story of a woman, long divorced, that became good friends with her ex-husband. Several days before they were going to have dinner together, he asked if he could have a few of his old books back. When he arrived and requested the books, she exploded, even though they broke up 25 years prior. Present triggers feel like past trauma, which can perpetuate behavior that seems out of context.

And then there are the external factors that help such as “trauma-healing” friends and animals. Gordon always asks his patients, “Who makes you feel better?” Those people or pets are vital to healing. There is a chapter on humor and a chapter on diet, which Dr. Gordon says is typically the least addressed component of healing trauma, though it has been shown to cause damage to the digestive tract. He says comfort foods lower stress in the short run, but increase it in the long run and offers a list of supplements for stress relief. 

Other unique important tools in the book include a special type of breathing used by shamans, dialoguing with body parts, and one I found really intriguing, creating a genogram—a multi-generational diagram of your family (instructions are provided). A genogram is a very effective way to access the past by giving someone a visual of their family and the historical trauma that may have occurred. Being able to see patterns on paper of illness or conflict as well as connection gives a broader perspective of your lineage and the wisdom to understand your own personal trauma. 

Later in the book, Gordon invites the reader to join either an in-person or virtual Mind-Body Skills Group, led by one of the six thousand people CMBM has trained—from Gaza to the Midwest. He shares amazing examples of what transpires in these groups, such as a woman whose genogram helps her understand why she worries so much. There she finds a tragic ending to her great-grandfather’s life that left a legacy of worried offspring. She is also encouraged to look to the genogram for someone to help her and she finds it. 

Near the end of the book is a chapter called “Love, Meaning, and Purpose.”  Survivors indicate these are vital to healing, and all of Gordon’s techniques lay the foundations for this. He also gives next steps and an appendix of places to find other help. This written culmination of Gordon’s career spanning 50 years is a comprehensive guide and workbook for healing trauma.


Widen the Window: Training Your Brain and Body to Thrive During Stress and Recover from Trauma Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780735216594
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Avery - September 24th, 2019

Book Review by Catherine Carlson - Reviewed in issue #75 of The Crazy Wisdom Community Journal

In Widen the Window, author Elizabeth Stanley comes to her subject through her own personal experience. As an extremely driven type-A personality, Stanley was “stuck on high” for years, coping with chronic stress and trauma when she lost her eyesight. Eventually she regained her sight, the clarity to heal herself, and later developed MMFT: Mindfulness-based Mind Fitness Training, a resilience program which she has taught to military groups, civilians, and students at Georgetown University. The goal of MMFT is to “access agency” in every traumatic situation and build a supportive relationship between our thinking brain and our survival brain. By doing this we will effectively Widen the Window—referring to the window of tolerance to stress. Ideally, then a person can function better within that larger zone or window. 

Stanley’s well-researched hefty text is divided into three parts. She gives examples of stress and trauma and cites a litany of reasons why our culture is so traumatized—we wear stress like a “badge of honor.”  An interesting piece of data is that our thinking brains often judge our life situations as insignificant, when our mind-body system is telling us another story. Another key point is that “if we don’t experience recovery from whatever our stress or trauma is, we eventually experience dysregulation.” These are symptoms such as insomnia, depression, addictions, chronic pain, and migraines, to name a few, that show up when our systems are no longer functioning in balance. 

Next, she covers the science behind her program proving how strongly neuroscience affects our structures. “Chronic stress leads to epigenetic changes in the immune system that result in chronic inflammation in the mind-body system.” She also points out that even though they sound very different, our bodies experience both stress and trauma quite similarly. 

Stanley says popular mindfulness exercises alone may backfire for people with narrow(ed) windows because it exacerbates the nervous system instead of balancing it. An example is when mindfulness exercises were used among marines. Even those that were diligent with their practice felt like they “were going to jump out of their skin” after several minutes. MMFT was designed with this in mind.

Finally, Stanley outlines the MMFT program, typically taught in an 8-week course or week-long intensive. The three parts blend (1) mindfulness skills training with (2) body-based self-regulation skills and (3) apply these to real life. The exercises seek to enhance the attention on a target while maintaining tolerance during a challenging experience. MMFT also cultivates the qualities of wisdom and courage, control and tolerance found in warrior traditions such as martial arts. Warriors in these lineages are able to “keep awareness, self-regulation, and ethical action, regardless of the situation.”  

Stanley includes two of the safest Mind Fitness exercises in the appendix of the book, and expands on strategies for them that are not usually included in her classroom training. The exercises are simple, and when done regularly, desired effects can be achieved. A U.S. Army Veteran, Stanley closes with a military saying. “When the enemy is unknown, you need a bigger reserve.”  Hence the need for a wider window to address what may have already occurred or what is to come, both personally and as a collective.